In the 1980s and 1990s, Michael Jordan and his gravity-defying slam dunks grabbed the attention of the world and made basketball popularity go global. Michael Jordan brought a show-stopping display of athleticism to every game. Add in his Nike endorsements and Jordan 1s, and the sports industry would never be the same.
Michael Jordan was selected third overall by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Draft in 1984. That same year, Nike signed him on for a five-year endorsement. Yes, Michael Jordan and his team had won a national title at the University of North Carolina and a Gold Medal at the Olympic games in Los Angeles, but Jordan was new to the league. It was a gamble, but one that would pay off in a big way. Attendance at Chicago Stadium alone rose a whopping 87 percent in 1984-85.
When Jordan put a foot on the court, in his Air Jordan 1s, he was slapped with a $5,000 fine. All season long, those fines accrued to a whopping $410,000 by the season’s end. The fine had nothing to do with Michael Jordan, and everything to do with the black and red Air Jordan shoes on his feet. While the fine had more to do with the NBA Commissioner at the time, David Stern, and his dislike of the lack of the traditional white on Jordan’s Nike shoes than shoes providing an unfair advantage, Nike happily shelled out for the fine.
It wasn’t about Jordan’s slam dunks. The difference was in his great slam-dunking leaps, seemingly effortless shots from around the court and his reliable showmanship. While some may call him a “ball hog,” the facts show otherwise. Michael Jordan still reigns supreme as the career assists leader for the Chicago Bulls (1966-2020), with 5,012 assists.
Anyone tuning into a game with MJ could expect a good showing. Unlike other basketball players, Jordan included a special clause in his contract. The “love-of-the-game” clause enabled Jordan to play basketball in the off-season to promote the sport. But a smart marketing move helped put him on the map as a top-earning athlete.
After the shoes were banned, Nike skillfully promoted the way Air Jordan shoes give players an advantage so great, the NBA wouldn’t allow them on the court. Maybe Jordan’s slam dunks had nothing to do with his endless hard work, stamina or the luck he felt by wearing his old blue UNC shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Maybe it was the shoes. Everyone wanted a pair and a chance to be a superstar basketball player like Jordan.
Jordan 1s made their way back on the court in new colorways. It was the first time basketball shoes were made with quality and style. Air Jordan shoes became a must-have item, spawning “sneakerheads” (people who collect and trade sneakers), and changing the quality of basketball shoes forever.
For Love Of The Game
Michael Jordan may have captured the world’s attention with the first Air Jordan 1, but his kind of athleticism kept fans clamoring for more. In the decades since, Michael’s popularity and his multitude of basketball records still stand. MJ’s powerful slam dunks and nine dazzling buzzer-beater game-winning shots make him a genuine basketball legend.